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Getting a Visa to the United States, a Step-By-Step Guide

From Jennifer Leavitt-Wipf,
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Determine Which Type of Visa You Need

All visas to the United States are based on your reason for wanting to visit or live in the country.

If you are coming to visit friends, attend a business function or meeting, or to be a tourist for less than six months, you will need a B (visitor) visa if your country is not part of the visa waiver program.

If you plan to study in the States, you will need an F or M (student) visa.

Au pairs, exchange students and other exchange program participants will be looking for a Q or J visa.

Those who plan to come under employer sponsorship, for a job, will be applying for an H or L visa, while entrepreneurs may be seeking an investor visa.

If you are coming to the States to join family pending a more permanent application, a K visa is in order, while joining permanently means you'll be applying for a green card, which is a resident visa.

These are among the most popular visa types, but there are more, and there are classifications within each type, depending on the further details of your circumstance. If you are not clear on which visa you should apply for, read our guide to find out more.

  1. Determine Which Type of Visa You Need
  2. Make an Appointment With a U.S. Embassy or Consulate
  3. Prepare Your Applications and Documentation
  4. Submit Your Application, Passport and Supporting Documents
  5. Be Prepared for Additional Questions, Reviews, Requests and Requirements
  6. Enter the U.S. With Your New Visa
  7. Be Sure to Read Your I-94 and Protect Your Passport, Visa and Other Paperwork
  8. Know the Terms of Your U.S. Visa and Don't Violate Them
  9. Enjoy Your Stay on Your U.S. Visa
  10. Keep Track of the Expiration Date on Your U.S. Visa

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